All About That Base…

I recently finished a delicious novel delving into the world of perfume making. While it was a work of fiction, I learned a tremendous amount about the art of creating scents. 

Fragrances are complex orchestras of individual smells. Layers of aromatic notes – top, middle and base notes – that work together to create a unique harmony.

Top notes spring forward first, fade the quickest, and are most often light and airy. Lemon, mandarin, lavender, anis, lemongrass are examples.  

Middle notes, or heart notes, take over after the top notes disappear and can last 3-4 hours. These are a little denser, a little more complex. Cinnamon, jasmine, rose, lilac, grass, pear, and peach, are a few.

Base notes are the anchor. They ground the other notes and add complexity and depth to the scent. Cedar, moss, vanilla, balsam. These sink into your skin and can last up to 24 hours.  

Sometimes perfumers add a molecule called indole to a fragrance. It tends to add a “wow” factor to a perfume, giving it a sexy, full, or intimate quality. 

Indole is found in feces. Quite literally, it is the smell of shit.

I began turning this over in my head on one of my runs. This concept of top and middle and base notes. It struck me similar to the piano, with the bass clef and treble clef.

The bass notes add richness and depth to a piece, and act as the foundation to the music. The higher notes in the treble clef are usually the melody, they tell the story. Without the high and the low working together, there would be a hollowness to the music. A story without an ending, a sadness without hope. 

It is through the dichotomy of the high and low, the bass and treble, the top notes and the base notes, that we have a rich texture to life. 

In our personal relationships, it is working through conflict and misunderstanding, that builds a deeper sense of trust and intimacy. It is through the hard times that our bond strengthens. Love grows deeper when we come together during a struggle, fight alongside each other, through the heartache and pain. 

It is through the physical discomfort on my worst runs, that my body grows stronger. It is through the throbbing and aching that I build muscle, resilience, strength. It is continuing to put one foot in front of the other during the mental exhaustion that builds in me a certainty, a knowing, that I can do it. I cannot have a best run, without first going through the pain of my worst run. My best day is only possible because I have had my worst day. 

Sometimes, my best run and my worst run are the same. Sometimes it is the perseverance through the most challenging, difficult, exhausting, and painful experience that leads to the elation, joy, humility, and peace of the most amazing experience. 

We have to have the indole – the shit. We have to have the base notes. We have to have the low times. We have to have the struggle. 

For, it is through struggle that we have joy. It is through the pain that we have strength. It is through the “indole” that we can experience the true depth of beauty.


A link to the book “The Scent Keeper” by Erica Bauermeister

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